On the internet, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.-Linda Caroll

Does your small business really need a website?

You're busy running your small business, you don't want to spend the extra money but you keep thinking that your business should have a presence on the world wide web. Besides doesn't everyone have a website these days?

Before you rush out and hire the first web designer you can find, ask yourself a few simple questions. How you answer them will not only help you decide if your business needs a website but what kind of website will be right for you and your prospective clients.

What kind of a small business do you have?

Does your business sell a specific product or is your business more service oriented? If it a producct you are marketing you must ask yourself: can the product be sold online? When ordered, can your product be transported worldwide? If your business is more service oriented will your website provide information about the service or the industry?

Do your prospective clients use the Web to look for your type of product or service?

These days people use the Web to find and research everything, including the kitchen sink. (I planned the entire remodel of my kitchen online, I even chose the kitchen sink). If you offer any type of professional service, your clients will expect to find you on the Web. If you want them to find you on the Web you need a professional, easy to find, easy to navigate, attractive website.

Do you offer a service that your consumers can research before they buy?

Most businesses do not operate soley on impulse purchases, so chances are your customers will want to research your products and/or services. In today's market, consumers like to be informed. Buyers purchase products only after they are fully informed, many use the Web to educate themselves. A website gives you the opportunity to educate your prospective clients about the products and/or services your business has to offer as well as highlight your areas of expertise without taking any of your precious time.

Do your competitors have websites?

Imagine that you are competing for the business of a prospective client. Your client has decided to use the Web to compare your services to that of your competition. If you do not have a website there will be no comparison. Your business will seem less established and less professional.

Do your clients have websites?

If they do, you can be rest assured that they consider the Web to be an important business asset.

Are you just establishing your business?

If your competitors are larger than you or of you are just establishing yourself in today's market you may want to your business to appear larger than it really is. Having a well designed, highly prefessional website can level the playing field. Your website will give your business the appearance of being large and well established.

Would you like to expand your business beyond your current customer base?

If you want to grow your business youíll need a website to reach clients in new areas. Suppose your business has always focused on one industry but now you want to expand and offer a new service tailored to a different industry. A website is an efficient way to let your cusotmers know that you have expanded as well as reach out to a new customer base.

Do you want to generate business leads?

A Web site makes it easy for potential customers to find you, and find out about you. Your on-line storefront or office can be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Do you want to reduce your over head costs?

Printing can be expensive. Then you have to figure out how to get it into the hands of your prospective clients. You can put the same type of content on your website, update it easily when you have changes, and send emails to prospects to entice them to your site. It will also be easier to communicate with distant vendors and clients.

In a survey conducted by Verizon SuperPages.com's Third Annual Small Business Internet Survey in 2001:

  • 50% of small business owners that have a website use email to communicate regularly with customers
  • 35% of small businesses with a website use it to advertise or offer company data
  • 8% sell their products and services through the website.
  • 56% of business owners believe that the website has a complete return on investment.

Do you want to increase the effectiveness of your business development activities?

A website is a great way to reinforce the effectiveness of your other business development and marketing efforts, such as ads and press releases. If you put your Web address on all of your materials you can draw people to your site, where you can provide more details. If you speak at conferences or write industry articles to increase your visibility, a website can expand the details in your bio.

In a survey carried out by Lewis, Mobilio & Associates for Homestead Technologies, Inc. in 2002, out of 970 small businesses owners in the US:
  • 57% agree that having a website is key to the success to their business.
  • 75% of the respondents believed that they nol onger can do without a website,
  • 61% felt they needed to have a website for their business.
  • 86% would recommend other small business owners to build a website.

A Website isnít just a "cool" thing to have itís an essential asset that can work double-duty to help your business succeed. Even if you donít expect new prospects to discover you via the Web, a website will help you at the next stage, when clients are researching your qualifications and background. In today's technological age,not having a website makes you look like youíre not serious about your business.

This article was written by, and republished with the permission of Linda Caroll.